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Dad needs help.....

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#1 dragonsm

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 03:58 PM

Our local library system here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota put together two backpacks kids are allowed to check out of the library for a week in celebration of the Apollo 11's 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, we had a chance to see the Apollo 11 Documentary at the Omni Theater and it really sparked his interest which is why I put my name on the list for the backpack.

 

https://www.kdlt.com...land-libraries/

 

(local news story on the backpack...I really think it's a great idea)

 

Our turn came up this week and he's had an absolute blast with it. We've been outside each night looking at the moon and other things in the sky with the supplied Orion FunScope. He (age 6) counts down the "time" until it's dark enough to head back out and view some more. Honestly, I've had a blast looking through it with him also (my daughter who is 11 has joined in also) and find it very relaxing. It seems as though I enjoy just about every other "hobby" pertaining to the outdoors, let's add another....and why not, the excitement from him seems worth it. Problem is, the backpack goes back at the end of the week as the waiting list for these is about 25 people deep. (I want to think we put our name on the list back in June)

 

Now, I know absolutely nothing about telescopes. I've done some google searching for my area, and there aren't really any local clubs, and I believe zero stores locally that have equipment. (tried doing my due diligence for some hands on learning and allow us to see what there is for telescopes) I've done the local facebook marketplace search and only turned up one model....an orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope (she is asking aroun 130). The one with the backpack has been fun for him to view the moon with all the charts included, however it seems to go that I find the moon, he comes over to view and bumps it in excitement and we start looking for it again. In about a week and a half I'll be heading to Omaha, NE for a weekend soccer tournament and possibly can expand my search there too.

 

Ideally, I'd like something a little more portable to where we can head out of town to get away from the light and I'm not looking to break the bank just yet and something not to complicated either that a 6 year old could run with help from dad. (he's one to like to turn some dials and do it himself also). Maybe a little bit bigger/better to allow us to see more stuff than just the moon? Again, no idea on need vs want and brands...so I have no idea what I am looking to spend.....just trying to continue to fan the flames of something he enjoys. Buying used vs new for a first scope?

 

I'm sure there are other questions I'm missing out on asking, but this is a good starting point I hope.....

 

Thanks,

Steve Matteson

 

 

 


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#2 RyanSem

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 04:20 PM

Welcome to the forums! That sounds like a wonderful program the school is sponsoring to get kids excited about astronomy and space, I love to read posts like these.

 

Believe it or not, that little FunScope can see a pretty hefty amount, don't let its tiny size fool you. Many early astronomers used scopes with apertures that size and less. While you still have it, try to find Saturn and Jupiter if you haven't already. From my perspective, the planets and the moon are the ones that get people excited the most, especially kids. Once you start looking at galaxies and clusters it's less about "seeing" and more about "understanding what you're seeing", and that can be a little discouraging for some kids.

 

Price wise the FunScope is only around $70 with shipping, so it's an inexpensive way to stay in the hobby if you'd like to play around it one for a little longer.

 

I typically look for scopes on craigslist and the facebook marketplace. I just looked for your location and I'm upset that I didn't find anything either! I'd imagine with dark skies in that area there would be more astronomers hoping to sell off some surplus equipment! My advice - keep scanning those pages and something will come along after not too long. A dobsonian type telescope is a great way to get started with a larger aperture for a lower price, and would be easy enough for your kids to use as well. 



#3 wrvond

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 04:21 PM

Hi Steve, and welcome!

 

The first thing that stands out to me in your post is the scope you found for $130.00 is on an equatorial mount. I strongly suggest you avoid EQ mounts and limit your purchase to an azimuthal mount. Azimuth (AZ) mounts are much easier to operate for visual than EQ mounts.

Telescopes come in three basic configurations:

refractors (like Galileo used), catadioptrics (too complicated to even address in this thread), and reflectors.

 

Reflectors use mirrors rather than lenses and cost a lot less.

Cutting to the chase:

For ease of use and low cost but still being able to see more than just the moon, I recommend a six inch manual dobsonian (reflector). Further, for your purposes, I'd recommend simply purchasing an eyepiece/filter kit such as sold by Celestron.

 

The Celestron eyepiece kit used to cost about $75.00 new, but appears to have drastically increased in price. It does come up fairly often in our classifieds for much less.

 

 

https://www.telescop...60/p/102004.uts

 

 

https://www.celestro...-and-filter-kit


Edited by wrvond, 08 October 2019 - 04:23 PM.

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#4 Rock22

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 04:23 PM

I started with a 4.5" (114mm) StarBlast, too (this one - $199).  I got it as a "2nd" from Orion, just like the one the link leads to.  It tracks pretty well and comes with two Plossls, a 25mm and a 10mm.  I still use it once in a while as it is a fun scope (after I collimate it).  This will be similar to the one you and your son borrowed from the library ($160 as a '2nd'). The AutoTracker does need power (batteries or adapter), and it is not as portable.  But the table-top Dob one should be very portable, as well as already being familiar to you.

 

My next scope was the short tube 80 (80mm refractor), like this one (about $95), except I got the Orion one when they were still available.  The tripod is not strong enough for the scope, but the scope is a lot of fun.  Many here on CN have this scope and even made modifications to it that were more expensive than the scope.  If you have a good camera tripod, the scope can be put on that.  The kit comes with 2 eyepieces and a good backpack (I have one of these as well as the Orion one), and it is very portable.

 

I wish my kids (12 and 7 years old, also older daughter and younger son) were into astronomy as much as your kids are! 

 

Hope you find something that fits you and that you and your family keep enjoying this fantastic hobby!


Edited by Rock22, 08 October 2019 - 04:30 PM.


#5 gkarris

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 04:30 PM

Orion has a great video on beginner scopes like that Funscope:

 

https://youtu.be/ZFJP1RguLXI


Edited by gkarris, 08 October 2019 - 04:30 PM.

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#6 PNW

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 04:34 PM

Steve, welcome to Cloudy Nights. I started with the Infinity 102. It's worthy of checking out at $200 with 3 eyepieces (magnification). As a refractor, it's virtually bullet proof and needs no adjustments like reflectors.


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#7 MikeTelescope

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 05:00 PM

Virtually identical to the Starblast 4.5 Astro is the Zhumell Z114 ($150) and the Lightbridge Mini 114 ($130).  All can be found on Amazon.  The Starblast is $200.  The Starblast and the Zhumell allow you to rotate the tube, which makes using it more comfortable.  

 

I have the little FunScope and the Starblast 4.5 Astro.  My nephew got a Starblast 4.5 Astro for Christmas when he was 6, mostly because I took mine to his house and he liked the idea.  His sits on a table gathering dust.  I think it is mainly the weight of it that dissuades him from using it by himself.  I think he would use a FunScope by himself more often.

 

The little FunScope can see a lot, and is the right size and weight for a 6 year old to carry and use by himself. It should come with a barlow (doubles the magnification) for planets and moon details.  The Starblast 4.5 will be brighter and show more fine details and is more robust to bumps.  

 

Many libraries carry the Starblast 4.5, you might surf around local libraries' website and see.  Then you have the option to try one out for free and compare the views and size/weight of the FunScope.  I borrowed a Starblast from a library during a family reunion this summer and held a mini star party in the yard after a BBQ.  The kids loved it.  The adults even more so.  Keep in mind that the eyepiece that is provided with the library Starblast limits the maximum magnification to about 50x, which can show a lot, but planets will still look very small.  

 

I would stay away from EQ mounts on tripods at this stage.  Too much complexity too soon.

 

That H. A. Rey book in the backpack is excellent.  I checked out a copy at the same time as the Starblast this summer to have around during the reunion.  It is a kid-oriented version of his original book, The Stars, which is excellent for adults and kids.  



#8 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 05:05 PM

I will 2nd the recommendation for the 102mm Meade Infinity. It comes in smaller sizes (90, 80, 70, 60, and 50mm) but I wouldn't go lower than the 80 mm as the mount/tripod for the 70 and smaller are crummy to the point I consider them toys.


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#9 aeajr

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 05:11 PM

Our local library system here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota put together two backpacks kids are allowed to check out of the library for a week in celebration of the Apollo 11's 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, we had a chance to see the Apollo 11 Documentary at the Omni Theater and it really sparked his interest which is why I put my name on the list for the backpack.

 

https://www.kdlt.com...land-libraries/

 

(local news story on the backpack...I really think it's a great idea)

 

Our turn came up this week and he's had an absolute blast with it. We've been outside each night looking at the moon and other things in the sky with the supplied Orion FunScope. He (age 6) counts down the "time" until it's dark enough to head back out and view some more. Honestly, I've had a blast looking through it with him also (my daughter who is 11 has joined in also) and find it very relaxing. It seems as though I enjoy just about every other "hobby" pertaining to the outdoors, let's add another....and why not, the excitement from him seems worth it. Problem is, the backpack goes back at the end of the week as the waiting list for these is about 25 people deep. (I want to think we put our name on the list back in June)

 

Now, I know absolutely nothing about telescopes. I've done some google searching for my area, and there aren't really any local clubs, and I believe zero stores locally that have equipment. (tried doing my due diligence for some hands on learning and allow us to see what there is for telescopes) I've done the local facebook marketplace search and only turned up one model....an orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope (she is asking aroun 130). The one with the backpack has been fun for him to view the moon with all the charts included, however it seems to go that I find the moon, he comes over to view and bumps it in excitement and we start looking for it again. In about a week and a half I'll be heading to Omaha, NE for a weekend soccer tournament and possibly can expand my search there too.

 

Ideally, I'd like something a little more portable to where we can head out of town to get away from the light and I'm not looking to break the bank just yet and something not to complicated either that a 6 year old could run with help from dad. (he's one to like to turn some dials and do it himself also). Maybe a little bit bigger/better to allow us to see more stuff than just the moon? Again, no idea on need vs want and brands...so I have no idea what I am looking to spend.....just trying to continue to fan the flames of something he enjoys. Buying used vs new for a first scope?

 

I'm sure there are other questions I'm missing out on asking, but this is a good starting point I hope.....

 

Thanks,

Steve Matteson

Welcome to Cloud Nights.  

 

What is your budget?  Scopes can be $100 and they can be $1000.  You referenced a used scope for $130, but is that your budget?   $150?  $200?  The higher we can go the better the package. 

 

I too would warn  you away from low end equatorial mounts.   Anything with EQ in the name is, in my opinion, to be avoided as a first scope and certainly if you want a 6 year old to use it. 

 

This article should be a big help.

 

How Much Does a First Telescope Cost?
https://telescopicwa...telescope-cost/


Edited by aeajr, 08 October 2019 - 09:12 PM.

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#10 Richie2shoes

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 05:35 PM

I'd recommend a 6" Dob like this one:  https://www.highpoin...telescope-08944  or a tabletop dob like the fun scope or the AWB Onesky.  They are simple to use and portable.  With the tabletop, you'll need something to set it on, the 6" just sits on the ground.  Add in a planosphere and a red flashlight and you're good to go!


Edited by Richie2shoes, 08 October 2019 - 05:36 PM.

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#11 Mike W.

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 06:11 PM

I would recommend that you locate a local astronomy club if at all possible and attend a public night or star party before you just buy a scope.

Get n idea of real size and all that goes with each type of scope, SCT, Dob, or refractor.

 

Great video's on youtube, 

Astronomy & Nature TV series, here's a link  https://www.youtube....h?v=2oG73hVHzf0

 

There are a bunch more astronomy vid's on youtube.

 

We can recommend scopes & stuff all day long, but you need to know more about the hobby.

 

Really try to take your time, the universe isn't going away anytime soon,cool.gif  


Edited by Mike W., 08 October 2019 - 06:12 PM.

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#12 SeattleScott

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 07:02 PM

You don’t want to break the bank, but do you want to throw $130 at something you will outgrow in six months? $130 is really cheap for a telescope. If you want something good enough to be happy with for a few years, you generally need to spend at least $200. The 4” Meade Infinity should be the lowest priced scope to look at IMO.

Consider ergonomics. I always get a refractor out when observing with my six year olds. Easier than getting a ladder out...

Scott

Edited by SeattleScott, 08 October 2019 - 07:06 PM.


#13 gnowellsct

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 07:38 PM

Sky and Telescope lists three clubs in S.D. including one in Sioux Falls.  Here's the link:

 

https://www.skyandte...title&order=asc  

 

It is true that some clubs wink out of existence and it's also the case that, since they are all volunteers, sometimes response times are slow.  But anyhow maybe you'll meet up with someone.

 

Greg N



#14 SamplingNature

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 09:08 PM

Start with a pair of binoculars (or more likely, a pair for each observing member of your family). You can get satisfactory results with a relatively inexpensive pair, plus they can be used for nature observation during the day. Stay in the 7X range for the kids and up to 10X for the adults. If your family remains interested in astronomy into the spring, then get a telescope.

Everybody here (except for, perhaps, Aeajer) might throw something at me for this scope suggestion, but I'd go with a Meade ETX-80. It's a GOTO scope, meaning that, after a simple setup procedure, the electronic base of the scope will find the objects in the built-in database and track them. The scope itself sells for just under $300. I'd suggest an 8-24mm zoom eyepiece and a 3× barlow to go with it, as this gives you pretty much the entire useable magnification range of the scope. Add a laser pointer/finder and it will make an excellent tool to help your kids learn the night sky.

The scope comes in it's own backpack (it's very small, so you'll want to consider a second bag for accessories), and it's very portable. You can use it with the included tripod, or as a tabletop scope. And since it's a refractor, you won't have to worry about collumation.

I'm very pleased with mine so far.
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#15 dragonsm

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 09:52 PM

I appreciate all of the advice. I'll probably read thru it a couple of times to get an understanding. We ended up going out again tonight. (He reminded me around 8:30 that we hadn't been outside to look into the sky) I also appreciate the tip on using binoculars. He actually has his own pair he has used in the past with me while hunting...Dad gets nervous when he wants to handle my "really good" pair. After we went inside for the night, I snuck back out and tried them out and they worked pretty darn good and was a tad bit easier to get on target.

 

I used one of the websites to track current locations and we were able to find both Saturn and Jupiter. (I also got quite the lesson on both of the planets from him) I had an app on my phone from a few years back (SkyView Lite) No idea if it is the best but the "pictures" that show up outlining the constellations seem to make it enjoyable for him and seeing all the different planets. Even had a satellite flying overhead for a little bit.

 

I am located in Sioux Falls, SD. I appreciate the link to the different clubs. I had found the local one earlier today and did some google searching on it along with facebook searching. I did run across some links/photos to star parties they use to do, however the latest one I found was 2015. The other two locations Pierre is about a 3 1/2 hour drive and Rapid City closes in on closer to 5 hour drive. Not life and death, but definitely something I'd have to plan for over the weekend.

 

As for a "budget"....I always smile at this.....my wife normally is ready to string me up. Initially I thought...let's see what's around $200....and gravitate out from there. If I stumble across a deal on a decent used scope that gets us in the game for a little while...even better, and just roll the excess into the next upgrade down the road. If $200 gets me not so good, but 250-300 gets me a solid base that can keep us going for a longer while...even better....then I extend the budget (but don't tell the wife) Just trying to find the most bang for the buck whether be new or used without "Jumping into the deep end with both feet and no PFD".....the binocs will at least buy me some time to where I can extend my search range (I coach a club soccer team also and we travel around the Midwest a little bit. Omaha and Minneapolis are two major cities I could probably find some stuff and we've also normally hit up Kansas City once or twice a year) My other thought is if I get one to start with and move on from that.....I'd pass it along to my wife (she's a 4th grade teacher locally here) and maybe it would be something she could implement into her classroom being able to send it home for a weekend with a student to view the sky themselves with their parents.

 

I probably seem all over the place, but at the very least a few good options and what to look for will point me in the right direction. Feel free to shoot me a message if a member on here has a solid setup to start with also. 

 

Lastly, I figure I'd attach a picture of my little guy out in the driveway checking out the moon and planets. (being it was dark, I needed a flash to get the photo) Tomorrow night may be the last for a couple of days in getting out as we are slated to get a winter blizzard/snow storm.

 

Steve

 

 

 

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#16 vtornado

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 10:09 PM

Hello and welcome to the forum.

 

One of the best all around telescope for $200.00 is the zhumell 130 table top dob.

It is wide field, and has no CA (chromatic abberation).  The dob mount is inherently stable.

I have had no trouble tracking with it at 150x.

Most $200 scopes on tripods are a shakey mess.

It does well on planets, and great on bright things like star clusters, and bright DSO's

You can make a home made push-to system with and angle meter and a paper azimuth circle, which

will help you find things in the sky.

 

Small refractors are nice, but fall apart on planets, because of the CA.

I tried viewing Juipter with a 80mm f/5 and it was too blurred by CA to see fine detail,

and kids (both big and small) are intrigued by planets.

 

You will have to learn how to collimate it.  I use a cheap laser collimator with a barlow and it takes me 1 minute. 

I use a 5 gallon paint bucket to put mine on and it works fine.

I can walk out of the house with the bucket in one hand and scope in the the other, and I am set up in a minute.

For your little guy he could probably just sit on the ground with it.

 

There are better scopes, but most cost more, or are much larger in size.


Edited by vtornado, 08 October 2019 - 10:14 PM.

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#17 Mike W.

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 10:20 PM

You could graze Craigslist for a used ETX like S. Nature suggested, those scope have good optics, the goto system is easy to learn, table top it or on a tripod, portable, rugged mount.

Great starter scope, and can be hid in a closet a lot easier than a 10" dob, which would be my next recommendation,,,,,,shocked.gif



#18 Jim1804

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 10:20 PM

That’s an awesome pic, and what a great experience for you both. I have a similar pic of my son when he was 5 completing his science project on Jupiter’s moons with my Celestron Firstscope (identical to the Orion Funscope, but with worse accessories). We had a blast, and for that reason I’ll never get rid of this scope (even though I don’t use it much now). There’s a lot of great advice here - my 2 cents would be “don’t overthink”. If he’d like a Funscope of his own, go for it. You won’t be out much money, considering how much fun he’s having.

 

If you want a reasonable upgrade, the $99 Orion Skyscanner (100mm) is a keeper that is still easy for kids to use 

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#19 SeattleScott

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 10:50 PM

Used sounds like a challenge when you aren’t near a major city. It can be worth it to get a $400 scope for $150 though. Problem is the really good deals go fast and you probably can’t get there in time.
Table top Dobs have their advantages, but they need a table. Your son won’t be in his hands and knees looking through a telescope in January.
An Orion 4.5” Dob should be about just the right size. Around $200 and no table required. It will be a bit short for you, but this is the challenge of finding a scope for a child and adult to use. The 4.5” Dob has a bit more horsepower for planets than a table top Dob, and it will work better with cheap eyepieces.

Scott

#20 clearwaterdave

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 11:39 PM

I think a Onesky is just the ticket for that young fellow.,lol

  Comes with everything you need except the table.,but you can buy.,/.,diy.,/.,or go with a milk crate.,or sit on the ground next to it.,.

   Here is mine all dolled up.,

Good luck.,

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#21 MikeTelescope

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 12:08 AM

Binoculars are a good starting point for adults, and maybe for older children/teens.  They're just too hard to hold steady for a 6 year old.  During the day, the hand shakes get smoothed by the eye and brain because there is so much visual information.  At night, looking at points of light, every shake is amplified and it's hard to make anything of it.  My 8 year old niece looked in my binoculars and said all she saw were white lines.  (Stars streaking due to hand shaking.)  

 

I would go ahead and get that FunScope.  It's approachable and light.  Its views are just fine for a kid.  At the same time, the $150 Zhumell 114 (same as the Starblast) is a lot more scope that the whole family will enjoy for a long time.  Get both, for under $250. 



#22 sg6

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 03:39 AM

Wander off one night to this lot: http://tristateastro.org/

Have a look at stuff and ask questions.

 

Personally I have never been a fan of the table top newtonians. Nice and small but often fast and so they make life less easy then I think it should be.

 

Except the cost I would have suggested the Skywatcher 150 dobsonian. They are f/8, well some are and would I thonk make a better longer term purchase. Somwone else will sell them but not sure under what name/brand and less idea of cost.

 

If you go looking at scopes remember all scopes have negative points and I think identifing the poor aspects is more relevant then the good ones. There is often something that you cannot live with, and all being a "telescope" they all do similar functions. But how they do it is the differences.

 

Just looked and the Tristate club appears to be in effect a single page and no real information in it. Bit puzzling. Rapid City is I guess way too far for the BH club https://sdbhas.org/

 

First scope is never easy. Needs to be often small and inexpensive but supply interest and expansion. Wonder if one of the ES Firstlight refractors 80mm f/8 so 640mm focla length on their Nano (??) mount might be an option. But you drop a fair bit of aperture. However I suspect an easier setup.


Edited by sg6, 09 October 2019 - 03:58 AM.


#23 MalVeauX

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 07:10 AM

Steve,

 

I would avoid small short achromatic refractors for now, the limited aperture (70~80mm) limits what you can physically see. They are convenient, but the seem to cost more and their real virtue is convenience (small short and light weight). But the compromise is small aperture (limited light, limited resolution) and lots of CA on bright stuff. I have lots of small short achromatic refractors. They're convenient and easyt to use, but honestly I consider it more of an instrument for a more experienced observer, not a kid's scope, because they simply won't see as much in a tiny aperture and they are not patient or experienced (kids). Really, if you and your kids want to physically see things, you need more aperture. Things really start to open up in the 5" and larger ranges so that you're not limited to a few bright things (kids are not excited to see a fuzzy smudge and imagining that its a galaxy and not really seeing it). More aperture allows you to see more things that are fainter and the larger aperture means more resolution on bright stuff like the moon or planet. I would truly go for a larger aperture. This means, budget wise, going with a mirror instrument.

 

The Zhumell Z130 is an awesome real telescope for this, good accessories, everything you need right out of the box with a big nice aperture, light weight, easy to take places. Just plop it down and start viewing.

 

https://www.highpoin...scope-zhus003-1

 

Right on budget. Real telescope. No CA. And not just a starter scope, this is a good real telescope that can be your observing instrument even when highly experienced.

 

++++++++++++++++++++

++++++++++++++++++++

 

Be aware though, under a dark sky, you will see things and it leads to more.... more.... more.... but a good more!

 

Get them hooked early!

 

45239015264_a994810555_c.jpg

 

39864477391_837d819bbe_c.jpg

 

48696767587_8fd88bdd4c_c.jpg

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX, 09 October 2019 - 07:19 AM.

  • BFaucett, Barlowbill, mrsjeff and 1 other like this

#24 Mike W.

Mike W.

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
  • Joined: 23 Dec 2016
  • Loc: Washington State

Posted 09 October 2019 - 07:46 AM

Morning Steve, deals like this are very common on used stuff site's like Craigslist

https://seattle.crai...6980731689.html

 

or this one

https://seattle.crai...6986770432.html

 

here's another one, weak mount and tripod but would get you started,

https://seattle.crai...6994981764.html

 

and yes, I understand you're not near a large city, but you might be surprised by what might be for sale near you, there are lot's & lot's of people that get quickly disappointed with their entry into the hobby and give up.

 

Thing is that with the ETX scopes you can also do terrestrial view of nature, just takes a different diagonal called an erect image diagonal, used around $45.

Birds, animals, the neighbor a mile away trying to fix his truck and throwing things at it,,,,,,,

 

Take your time.watch the video's I linked.


Edited by Mike W., 09 October 2019 - 07:53 AM.


#25 gkarris

gkarris

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 246
  • Joined: 11 May 2019
  • Loc: Chicago Area

Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:02 AM

Morning Steve, deals like this are very common on used stuff site's like Craigslist

https://seattle.crai...6980731689.html

 

or this one

https://seattle.crai...6986770432.html

 

 

Stay away from the ETX scopes, especially the 70 - was a hobby killer for me (bought new for $425 and not working out-of-the-box)....




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